The first time I saw a pack of tarot cards was at my uncle's house. My mum and I were staying for a few days, and I think I was around eight or nine. We'd had dinner and I guess my uncle was giving us the grand tour of his house or something. In his bedroom he opened a box and revealed what I think was the Aleister Crowley Thoth tarot to us with great ceremony. He said, mostly to me, something along the lines of "these are dangerous! You shouldn't mess with them!" and closed the box. That was it. I have no idea whether he was a secret occultist, a tarot dabbler, or (most likely) curious and had bought a set one day because... why not? Yet even then, I knew whatever those cards were was intriguing and that they were, in some way, "for me" in a way I didn't really understand, but that felt familiar and right.
In the early 90s, having decided I was going to be a witch amidst the new popularity of Wicca, I asked my dad to buy me a set of tarot cards and set about teaching myself how to read them. I read many helpful books at that time, among them a number of books by Sasha Fenton, which I would still recommend today. Here's one I still own:
I tried reading Aleister Crowley's books at the time, but found them impenetrable - not surprising, really, and not for teen beginners in the occult. But I was hooked, nonetheless. I started practising on my mum's friends, giving free sample readings, which were varied in quality and accuracy, at best. But that was OK.
My mum had also owned an odd set of fortune telling cards called the Osiris cards by medium Bev Craig, published in the 1980s. Anyone remember these? There was also the Osiris Wheel, which she didn't have:
I regret not hanging onto the Osiris cards, and though I never worked out how to use them in my childhood, I do remember my mum giving her friends the odd reading here and there and them looking scandalised about how accurate they were - so clearly I had form in this area, from my mum and my uncle, at least.
Now, I know that in fact the tarot is a symbol system rich in occult knowledge and corresponds to many magical systems including qabalah, astrology, ceremonial magick and numerology (all of which intersect as part of the same language) and so for me, tarot was a key to unlocking some of these mysteries as I grew up and became more interested in witchcraft and the occult.
Yet for me, the main thing is that, unlike my uncle with his smoke and mirrors "don't touch!" approach, and my mum's slightly scared-looking friends in the extremely un-mystical town I grew up in, the tarot may be a deep and rich magickal system, but that magickal system represents and includes ALL OF US and speaks of all of our lives, as spiritual beings having a human experience. Tarot is not just "for" some of us - mystical types at gong baths or people who dress in black and love a bit of statement jewellery (I like all colours of clothing, haha). Tarot is for everyone, because it's about the human experience. And so, if you're asking yourself, "why would I want a tarot reading?", then the answer is, because it is a tool that can help you, whoever you are, know yourself.
My name is Anna and I've been reading tarot for more than 25 years. My first tarot pack was the Cosmic Tarot which I bought in my teens in a shop in Bristol (also called TARO). My favourite cards are the Two of Cups and the Lovers because I'm a hopeless romantic, but I love the deep symbolism of the tarot and even after 25 years am still learning about its mysteries!